A Worm/Polity Crossover
1) This story draws inspiration from the Wormverse, which is owned by Wildbow, and from the universe of the Polity, which is owned by Neal Asher. I make no claim on either property.
2) I will follow canon as closely as I can. If I find something that canon does not cover, I will make stuff up. If canon then refutes me, then I will revise. Do not bother me with fanon; corrections require citations.
3): I will accept any legitimate criticism of my work. However, I reserve the right to ignore anyone who says "That's wrong" without showing how it is wrong, and suggesting how it can be made right. Posting negative reviews from an anonymous account is a good way to have said reviews deleted.
Part One: Geneva
The smuggler ship Gambler's Ruin emerged from U-space right where I needed it to be; that is, about five kilometres off my bow, where my forward-mounted maser arrays could neatly target it. For good measure, I woke up my missile pods and told them to look alive. Sean, I sent via my aug, time to start the party.
Already on it, my ship AI responded. Inhibitor activated. They're not going anywhere.
"Gambler's Ruin," I broadcast, observing the frantic attempts by the Ruin's crew to restart their U-space engines, "this is Geneva Hastings, registered bounty hunter. Do note that your U-space engines will not start without the lockout codes that I currently possess."
With a jolt, the Ruin's fusion engines kicked in. They were oversized for the craft, which would give the smuggler vessel quite an appreciable amount of acceleration. Of course, this required that the engines give more than an asthmatic cough before shutting down again.
"Nor will your fusion drive," I added pleasantly. "You will power down and prepare to be boarded before I do something even more drastic." They wouldn't listen. Smugglers rarely did. Of course, I wasn't often sent after smugglers, which was probably a good thing for the smuggling trade, not to mention my boredom threshold.
The next thing they did was power up their chameleonware. I wasn't sure why they hadn't done that first; maybe they had an issue with power drain. In any case, it didn't matter; I painted them with my targeting laser, and put a maser shot past their bows just to make my point.
"I can see you," I warned them, quite unnecessarily. "Power down, now, before I decide to chop you up into bite-sized chunks and sift through the rubble by hand."
Finally, I got a response. Incoming transmission, Sean warned me, via my aug.
Sift the attack code out of it and give me the rest, I replied the same way.
That there would be attack software appended to the message, I had no doubt. My caution was quickly rewarded; Sean whistled softly as he sorted through it. I don't think he likes you. How did you know?
Long experience, I replied. He's not the sort to roll over and play dead.
"Okay, you've got me." Kramer's voice was taut with anger and frustration, mirrored by his expression as Sean put his image on my virtual display. "What do you want from me now, bitch?"
I grinned. "Now, is that any way to speak to your ex-wife?"
His reply was sulphurous, bordering on the apoplectic. "Fuck you!" he screamed, after he'd calmed down somewhat. "You fucking led me on -"
"You tried to kill me, Kramer," I reminded him.
"You tried to kill me first!" he retorted.
"I caught you cheating on me with those catadapt twins," I snapped. "How was I supposed to react? Join in?"
"You didn't have to pull out a pulse pistol and start shooting!" he bellowed.
I rolled my eyes. The incident had been more than twenty years ago. Some people held a grudge for far too long. "I only wanted to scare the catgirls away. And maybe wing you a little."
He subsided, glaring. I glared right back. It took Sean clearing his non-existent throat in my ear to snap me back to my current purpose.
"Okay, Kramer," I gritted. "We've got history. But I'm not here about that. I'm here to take back something you've got on board. Then I'll go my way, you'll go yours, and we can each try to forget that the other even exists."
"Do I even have a choice?" he asked, grimacing.
"Not much of one, no," I admitted. "Of course, if a Prador dreadnought emerged from U-space right behind you, I'd give you the codes so we could both get the hell out, but anything short of that, I am gonna get what I want."
"Yeah, that much hasn't changed," he muttered.
"So," I told him brightly, "you're going to open your main lock, and have your crew all standing in plain view when I come in. If I see one hand on one gun, the average number of hands per crewmember on your ship is going to go down."
"So what is it you're after?" he asked. "If I can have it ready for you to take, it'll make your job easier."
Now he sounded helpful and cooperative. It made sense; the less time I took, the faster he could go elsewhere and sell off his shady goods.
I didn't trust him for a picosecond.
"It's stolen goods. Doesn't belong to you," I told him flatly.
"Well, that doesn't narrow it down much," he replied blankly.
"Not supposed to," I agreed. "Just have all your crew out in plain view. Unarmed. Combat mods powered down. I've got good analysis software; I'll know."
"They'll cooperate," he assured me.
"Good." I cut the com, and smiled slightly. He hadn't said 'we', he'd said 'they'. He obviously didn't intend to cooperate. That was fine; I didn't intend to trust him.
As I climbed into the EV suit, I accessed my aug. Sean, make sure he doesn't try anything tricky outside his ship. Let me know if you spot anything wonky.
His warm Scottish burr was always thicker when action was possibly imminent. I'll do that for you, lass.
Checking to make sure that my pulse pistol was secure in its thigh holster – it wasn't the one I'd used to break up his threesome, all those years ago, but it was a close cousin – I picked up the other essential package that I'd need, and let myself out through the airlock.
There weren't any grav-plates outside the Bond James Bond, but the suit's gecko-grip soles stuck nicely to the hull of my ship. Extending my arm, I called up a reticle in my mind's eye, centred the target, and let fly. There was barely any jolt as the launcher on my left wrist expelled a grappler, which reeled out monofilament wire behind it.
It whipped across the intervening distance at what would have been somewhat more than sonic speed, had there been air to carry sound, and smacked into the Gambler's Ruin amidships. Molecular polarisation made it the stickiest thing around; when the reel began to wind in, I was drawn along without straining the bond at all.
I didn't travel quite as fast as the grapple-head had gone, but then, nor did I need to. Behind me, Sean would be keeping a very close electronic eye on the Ruin, both inside and out. The inhibitor program that I'd bribed a tech to install in the other ship's computer was a useful thing; it would also be allowing Sean access to his internal sensors. Of course, as soon as I was gone, Kramer would be scouring it from his systems, and be immune to it thereafter. But I only needed it this once.
It was almost peaceful, there between the two ships. No demands on me, nothing near me except two tiny ships in a big, big universe. Ahead, I could see the active paintwork on the Ruin's nose, depicting a pair of old-style dotted dice rolling and breaking into fragments, before reforming and rolling once more. It was a nice touch; I admired it.
When I was close enough to the Gambler's Ruin, I twisted my body so that I was falling 'down' toward the ship, and slowed my rate with the compressed-gas thrusters that ran up each suit leg. I landed lightly on the outer hull of the ship, my gecko-soles gripping immediately, and reeled in the remaining mono-cord. Then I stepped over to the side of the lock, its door opened wide. Invitingly so.
I trusted it even less than I trusted Kramer.
All good your end? I asked Sean.
Seems to be, he agreed.
He opened the lock for me, I noted. Be a dear and see how he booby-trapped it for me, will you?
You really do not trust the man, he noted.
I was married to him for eleven years, I replied. I have a good idea of how his mind works.
If you don't trust or like him, why did you stay married that long? His voice was curious.
I was young and stupid, he's very persuasive, and we never spent much time together that wasn't in bed, I sent back, a wry smile twisting my face.
Ah. Of course. Sean almost sounded embarrassed. But then, his emulation programs were very good. Sorry for prying.
Hey, we're partners, I told him. We share the good and the bad. About the airlock?
More bad there, I'm afraid, he informed me. He's managed to rig it so that when it pressurises, it'll fill to about ten atmospheres, then eject you into space. He's also got two people trying to aug into his systems, to get them back online.
ETA for that?
Not long, he admitted. Fifteen minutes, maybe a little less. He has some good people.
I was impressed; I'd been given a verbal guarantee of thirty-five minutes minimum. Well, let's see if we can't be gone by then.
What are you going to do about the airlock?
I grinned. Not my airlock.
Swinging myself into the airlock, I felt the grav-plates engage, and I went from looking down at it to standing in it. As part of the same move, I swiped something off of my belt and slapped it on the inner door. The outer door closed solidly, and I engaged the locking latch. Air began to blast into the airlock interior at somewhat over normal pressure; I could feel the jets from where I stood.
My aug made the connection to the micro-mine that I'd slapped on to the door as I retreated to the far corner of the airlock; I told it to detonate before the air pressure could get high enough to transmit any sort of shockwave. The crack was sharp, almost shrill, in the tenuous atmosphere, and a loud buzzer sounded, along with a flashing yellow light. An abortive clicking in the inner lock door indicated that someone was trying to secure it, but the micro-mine had disabled that particular mechanism, and not by coincidence. As the air pressure reached E-normal and rose above it, I toggled the inner door and pushed it open.
As indicated, the crew of the Gambler's Ruin was all standing in the main area. Kramer had obviously gathered that I would have scan data on the whole ship, so he wasn't trying to hide anyone. It was about the only thing he wasn't trying to hide; I had no doubt but that the few items of smuggled goods I could see were things he'd decided he could afford to lose. And of course he and his tech people were doing their best to pretend not to concentrate their every effort on breaking the grip the inhibitor program had on their computers.
But that was fine. I gave Kramer a cursory glance; he still had the striking looks that had attracted me, back when I lacked any sort of good judgement in men. He still had it, I saw; there were several women among the crew who seemed to hang close to him, almost protectively. I almost smiled; in an emergency, Kramer would think about Kramer first, last and always.
I let my eyes rove over the rest, while casually plucking my pulse pistol from the holster and letting it dangle negligently by my side. I knew what Kramer had tried to do to me; he knew what I'd done to circumvent it. We didn't even bring up the matter.
Or rather, I didn't feel like bringing it up, and if he brought it up, I had a pistol at hand. That sort of thing tends to win arguments.
Among the rest of his crew, he had two Golem that I could spot, a catadapt – male, this one – several nondescript humans of one stripe or another, a seadapt, a true-human from Cull, and what looked like a hooper from Spatterjay. I tilted my head in apparent curiosity. "You," I ordered, gesturing to the seadapt, apparently a teenage boy. "Come here a moment."
The kid glanced at Kramer, who hesitated for a long moment; I twitched the pistol upward slightly, and Kramer grimaced. "Do what she says, boy," he ordered.
Reluctantly, the seadapt approached me. "What?" he asked me, glancing nervously at Kramer again.
I jerked my chin upward. "What's a seadapt doing in a spaceship, especially one without a submerge tank? Long way from your preferred environment."
"I, uh, I'm working my passage," he jerked out, swallowing nervously.
This close, he was a work of art. I'd met a few frog-like amphidapts, but no seadapts, at least not in person. His skin was a glittery sheen of scales, and the thick-lipped gills on either side of his abdomen pulsed and gaped occasionally. He had nictitating membranes like mine, but his were thick and obvious; when he blinked, they wiped across his large, wide-set eyes like silvery polishing cloths.
I noted fins on his arms and legs that were currently laid flat, but could probably be raised, along with one laying flat on his hairless head. His fingers were extensively webbed, as were his toes, but it seemed that he could retract the webbing for manual purposes. His only item of clothing – a pair of utilitarian shorts – concealed whatever the 'dapt process had done for his love life.
"Huh." I pondered a moment. "Not any more. Get behind me. Into the lock."
"What?" He was startled, but I saw hope and fear rising in his eyes, in equal quantities.
"I'm your rescue, kid," I told him, tossing him the flat-packed EV suit that I'd carried over from the Bond James Bond. "Get that on. We're leaving."
Startled he may have been, but he was also very quick on the uptake. He had the pack open and was stepping into it by the time Kramer realised that I was serious. "Hey, wait," he protested, stepping forward. "You can't -"
My arm snapped up and he was looking into the muzzle of my pulse pistol. "I can and I will. I said I'd be taking one stolen item. That's him. Reynaud James Klovis VII, heir to the Klovis billions." I kept reciting, not even needing to access my aug. "Kidnapped from his family's estate three weeks ago, occasioning the destruction of several Golem and necessitating the restoration of half a dozen human security from memstore. There is a very large bounty out on each and every member of the team that snatched him."
"That wasn't us," Kramer told me hastily. "We're just taking him someplace safe."
"I knew it wasn't you," I agreed. "Which is why I'm just taking junior home again. The reward is approximately my weight in etched sapphires, which will set me up for quite a while."
"Look, if you want, we can cut you in -" he began; my pistol, which had begun to lower, raised to point straight into his face once more.
"Not interested," I told him flatly. "I'll be taking young Klovis, and I won't be telling anyone where I found him, and you can go your merry way."
"Ready," reported the kid from behind me; I spared half a glance, and he was just fastening the last seam.
Kramer tried to jump me in that instant; I shot him in the knee, low power, and he sprawled. But other crew members were reaching behind their backs, and I knew it wasn't to relieve lower back pain.
"Into the lock, now!" I snapped, leaping backward, and fanning fire across the rest of the crewmembers. Some dived for cover, some went down, and some returned fire. I pulled the lock door to and engaged the latch; one or two shots made it in before the heavy metal door blocked them out.
It wouldn't hold them long, but I didn't need it to. I slapped another micro-mine on the outer door, braced myself, and triggered it. The wave of overpressure wasn't pleasant, but Reynaud stood it better than me; of course, being seadapt, he would be better equipped to handle variations in pressure. At least, I hoped so.
Airlocks normally didn't open until one side or the other was equalised with the outside pressure. I had defeated both safety measures by the simple measure of puncturing the door; as I had intimated to Sean, it wasn't my airlock. My mine had wrecked the mechanism holding the door closed, so I turned the manual latch, and it opened, spilling us into vacuum.
Reynaud's suit inflated to full size in an instant; it was a cheap, minimum-feature piece of crap I carried around because it took up little room. It would hold one atmosphere indefinitely, but didn't come with air packs. As we tumbled slowly away from the Gambler's Ruin, I grasped him firmly, returning my pistol to its holster once more. Then I fed a line from my EV suit to a socket on his.
"Can you hear me?" I asked him out loud; the line had a speaker and a microphone in it, as well as other things.
"I can hear you," he responded. "What happens now?"
"What happens now is that you hold tight to me and I correct our spin," I told him pragmatically. He did as he was told; I used my leg-thrusters to bring us on to a heading where I could see the Bond James Bond, lying almost invisible against the starscape, five kilometres away.
"Keep hanging on," I told him. "But don't foul my left arm."
He obeyed; no doubt, he'd been through security drills before, and the one thing that had been pounded into his scaly skull was when you don't know what's going on, stay calm and do what you're told.
Behind me, I knew that the crew of the Gambler's Ruin would be arming themselves and suiting up, and making their way to other airlocks; the one I had ruined would not be a way out for any of them at this moment. Those who I had not shot, that is. Those ones would be nursing very painful burns. But I wouldn't put it past Kramer to come after me anyway. That man could hold a grudge.
My reticle firmed up and I loosed the shot, just as Sean's voice came up in my ears.
Don't want to rush you, lass, but they're out of the ship now, and there's blood in their eye.
I'm on it, I assured him, just as the grapple-head hit and stuck to my ship. Okay, if you can back up just a little while I'm reeling in?
Roger that, lass, he replied; I felt the acceleration away from the Gambler's Ruin as I cut in the rewind function, and we started moving away faster than the mechanism was capable of pulling us.
"What?" gasped Reynaud. "What's got us?"
"My ship," I told him. "Just relax, and hang on."
He relaxed, and hung on. Several shots crackled past us, but we were small targets, and receding rapidly. We reeled in, and the Bond James Bond came closer, all the while we drew away from the Gambler's Ruin.
If you'll detach now, I'll catch you in the main airlock, Sean instructed me. We may need to hurry. They've almost cracked the Inhibitor, and the crew are being recalled inside.
That wasn't a good thing. The Gambler's Ruin was several times larger than the Bond James Bond, and the mess they could make of us, once free of electronic shackles, would be substantial.
I detached the monowire and retracted it, then used my leg thrusters to bring us around once more. Reynaud didn't struggle, but his eyes widened as he saw my ship for the first time; it was apparently approaching us at a rather alarming speed. We were going to land feet-first in the airlock.
"We're going to hit -" he blurted, then shut himself up. I mentally assigned him another mark for clear thinking; he had obviously realised that I already knew what was going on.
Seconds before we were due to hit, Sean propelled the ship sideways on thrusters, so that we seemed to slow abruptly; when we did touch down, my gecko soles adhering nicely, it was with barely a bump.
I kept hold of Reynaud – his suit wasn't equipped with gecko-grip, and had I let go, he would have bounced out into the void once more – and grabbed a handrail. After a moment, he did the same, and we brought our feet down to the 'floor' of the airlock. The outer hatch closed, and we both felt the lock filling with air – to one E-standard atmosphere this time, not the ten that Kramer had intended for me.
As soon as the pressure matched, I opened the inner hatch and headed for the cockpit. I felt the line I had attached to Reynaud pull free, but that didn't matter; we were both in atmosphere again. Popping my helmet, I lifted it off my head. "Unseal and grab a seat, kid," I told him. "We're gonna have to make some high Gs to get clear before I can use my U-space engines."
There were a couple of acceleration chairs back in the body of the Bond James Bond, but Reynaud was obviously determined not to just be a passenger any more. As I strapped myself into the pilot's seat – not that I was really needed there, as Sean could run the ship just as well as I could – the seadapt climbed into the seat beside me, already reaching for the straps.
The very instant his restraints clicked home, a warning buzzer sounded, and the ship bucked violently. For a moment I thought that the Gambler's Ruin had shot at us, but it was merely Sean turning tail and piling on the Gs.
They've overcome it, Sean reported a moment later. Now they'll be coming after us.
"Out loud, please Sean," I requested.
"Certainly," he responded. "The Gambler's Ruin has overcome the inhibitor program, and will be coming after us. By the way, I'm Sean, and welcome to the Bond James Bond."
"Uh, thanks," Reynaud replied. "And thanks for the rescue. That was really smooth."
I smiled at the praise, pushing back the hair over my aug in an unconscious motion. "That's okay. Kramer and I have a history. It was nice to be able to kick him in the balls one more time."
"Wow, really?" he asked. "You don't look much older than me."
I had to admit, I was flattered. I like to think that I look good, and anti-ageing treatments are cheap. I prefer the 'elf' look; platinum hair, pointy ears, huge silver-blue eyes in a triangular face, the whole deal. This comes with a slender, waif-like build, but skeletal reinforcement and muscular enhancement means that I can still bench as much as your regular adult male. Unenhanced, of course. The weights that those high-G brutes can dead-lift is ridiculous. And don't get me started on hoopers.
"Keep dreaming, kid," I chuckled. "I parted ways with Kramer twenty-five years ago, and I was married to him for eleven years before that."
He blinked, assimilating that. "Huh," he mused. "I can see it, but I've really got to look."
"Well, we're going to be spending a lot more time in each others' company," I noted. "My U-space engine isn't the strongest, so until we can reach a planet with a runcible gate, we're going to be days in transit."
As I spoke, I was using my aug to call up data on the pursuing ship. They had more engine power; I had less mass to accelerate. Kramer must have been redlining his engines, because he was creeping up on me, despite Sean pushing our engine to what he considered to be our safe limit.
A spark flared on the ship, and suddenly, we were rolling to the side, the conflicting forces making my inner ear slosh uncomfortably. Something shot past us, lighting up the void.
" … and they're shooting at us," I muttered. "Wonderful."
"Can you shoot back?"
I looked at Reynaud. "I could, but I don't want to waste missiles. Besides, we're almost there."
"Almost where?" he asked.
"Almost ready to hit U-space," I informed him. "Ready, Sean?"
"Ready when you are."
Barely had the words left my mouth when a siren sounded. Sean's voice blared from the speakers. "Contra-"
The glare from behind us, and the tremendous jolt coincided with the entry into U-space. It felt like we were tumbling; certainly, it did not feel like any U-space transit that I had ever experienced before.
" - terrene device," finished Sean. "I'm picking up some really weird energy readings."
"From the explosion?" I called up the data he was looking at, and he was right. The readings were really weird.
"Your guess is as good as mine. Uh, there's a fluctuation in the U-space engine now. It doesn't look good, and it's getting worse."
"How far have we travelled? Are we away from Kramer?"
"Good. Drop out of U-space and see if we can't do some repairs before we move on."
The return to realspace was almost as wrenching as the entry into U-space. The Bond James Bond was shuddering all over by the time we were fully back into the real. I drew a deep breath and looked around. Nothing seemed to be on fire, and I didn't hear any atmosphere leaks.
"Well, that was fun," I noted. "Gimme a full diagnostic and a location, so we know which way to run for a Polity planet."
"That's … really weird," Sean observed slowly.
"What is?" I pulled up his data on my aug. Then I blinked. "Shit, that is weird."
"What's weird?" asked Reynaud.
I looked at him. "I'll send it to your aug."
"I don't have one," he pointed out. And it was true; he didn't.
"Why the hell not?" I asked. "It's not like your family's not rich enough to afford one."
He shook his head. "Grandpa always said that we had to reach twenty-one without using one. That way we'd learn to think for ourselves before letting an aug take over for us."
"Huh." That was almost as weird as what Sean and I had discovered.
"So what's weird?" he asked again.
"Well, we seem to have arrived in the Sol system," I told him slowly. "But there are aberrations. Anachronisms. No sign of the Mars settlements. No space travel at all, in fact. Nothing in the asteroid belt, or around Jupiter."
"I'm detecting electronic life signs from Earth, of course," Sean put in. "But nothing of the volume I would have expected."
"It's almost as if we've arrived in the past," I muttered.
"But that's impossible," protested Reynaud. "Isn't it?"
"Not … impossible," Sean told us. "Just very difficult to pull off. It's called a time-inconsistent jump. More usually doable with runcibles, with the huge downside that you will destroy everything within a large radius of the starting runcible, depending on how far you go in distance and time. But all the evidence suggests that we've pulled one off with our U-space jump. Very likely with the assistance of Kramer's CTD."
"Well, fuck." I let my head lower forward until my forehead was resting on the console. It was cool on my skin.
"So, uh, how far back are we?" asked Reynaud practically. "A hundred years? Two hundred? A thousand?"
"That should be relatively easy to work out," Sean noted. "Let me see … hmm. Relative positions … general state of observed technology … I would guess that it's on the extremely close order of five hundred seventy-three years. Plus or minus ten years."
"So what's the date?" I asked, without raising my head.
"For that, you'll have to land and buy a newspaper," Sean replied with an electronic chuckle. "But my best guess at the year is … two thousand and eleven."
"Well," observed Reynaud. "Damn."
End of Part One
Glossary of Terms
Amphidapt: a human who has undergone genetic modification to become an anthropomorphic frog, or similar appearance.
Aug: Cerebral augmentation. A kidney-shaped device, several centimetres across, usually attached to the skull behind the ear. Acts like a full computer system and modem in one.
Autodoc: Automated drone that can carry out any surgical need with speed and precision.
avidapt: human with bird-like genetic adaptations.
Catadapt: a human who has undergone genetic modification to end up as an anthropomorphic cat of one type or another.
Centurion class: heavy Polity warship.
Chainglass: a substance consisting of chained silicon molecules. Transparent as glass, tougher than steel plate.
Ceramal: A ceramic/metal blend that makes for excellent armour plating.
Chameleonware: a suite of different devices, which act to deflect light around a vessel, while cutting emitted noise and reducing other giveaway signs that it's there.
Contra-terrene device (CTD): Antimatter bomb.
Cull: planet where the original settlers had themselves genetically adapted to better survive the harsh environment. They consider themselves 'true humans', as opposed to those who weren't altered.
(Polity) - A huge, somewhat enigmatic entity, composed of four interconnected kilometre-diameter spheres, capable of interstellar travel. Nobody knows quite what it's up to or what it wants.
(Worm) - Earth Bet's first (and currently, only) AI, created by Andrew Richter.
Etched sapphires: one means of physical currency. Eyeball-sized sapphires, with intricate designs cut into them. Each one is worth ten thousand New Carth shillings.
EV suit: spacesuit
Gecko-grip: Surface covered in extremely tiny hairs, which adheres to other surfaces using van der Waal forces, as geckos do.
Golem: Skeletal metallic humanoid robots (not unlike Terminators). Can be covered in syntheflesh to appear human. Some are more human than others. 'Golem' is both the singular and plural of the word.
Grant's World: A planet that was rendered utterly uninhabitable during the Prador Wars.
Grav-planing: using momentum to skate along on AG.
Grav-plate: flat plate which projects gravity directly above it. Usually, but not always, earth-normal.
Grid: The Polity version of the internet.
Haiman: A human with an AI built into his brain. This is not a direct interface, but a more powerful version of the near-ubiquitous aug.
Hoop, 'Spatter' Jay: A particularly vicious pirate who discovered the planet Spatterjay. It is named after him, as are Hoopers. One of the first to fall prey to the leeches, he was reportedly decapitated, but his body and head have both survived.
Hooper: a human inhabitant of Spatterjay (see the entry) who has been bitten by a leech. This infects them with a virus that makes them nigh-immortal and ever stronger over the years. The oldest hoopers are over three hundred years old.
Ian Cormac: Main character of the first Polity series. Extremely capable secret agent.
Jain: Now-extinct race that engineered a horrifying technology that eventually wiped them out.
Jaintech: Inimical ultra-tech that infects living and non-living apart with terrifying speed.
Kinetic kill, KK: Missile with no explosive warhead; it depends on pure kinetic energy to do damage to the target.
Manufactory: Onboard automated mini-factory capable of turning out various replacement parts for the ship it's on.
Maser: Microwave laser.
Memplant: a means of recording the personality and memories of a human onto a crystal matrix implanted in their brain. After death, the memplant crystal can be removed and implanted in a clone body, another person or even a Golem body.
Monofilament, monowire: cord or wire consisting of a single long-chain molecule. Very strong, very thin.
New Carth: A human occupied planet. The New Carth shilling is a particularly stable currency.
Occam Razor: a huge battleship, veteran of the Prador Wars.
Polity: The Human Polity. AI-run human civilisation. It's run efficiently, smoothly, and without any interference by human politicians.
Prador: An inimical crab-like species against which humanity fought a protracted and bloody war. They are guilty of several types of atrocity, including eating surrendered captives.
Pulse pistol: one of several types of weapon that puts out a cloud of incendiary particles, then ignites them to form plasma.
Railgun: Weapon that accelerates projectiles via pulsed magnetic fields.
Reif: Short for reification. A human who has died but been revived, with mechanisms keeping his body going, and a memplant crystal taking over from his brain where needed. Essentially, a self-aware technological zombie. Given the fact that dying of old age is essentially impossible in the Polity unless the person chooses that fate, reifs are almost universally accident or murder victims.
Runcible: Portal gates from one planet to another, via U-space. Travel time is instantaneous.
Seadapt: Human who has been genetically altered so as to be at home in the ocean.
Shimmer-shield: light, selectively permeable force field
Skaidon-Craystein experiment: a ground-breaking event where a human genius entered into direct mind-to-mind connection with an AI. This led directly to the invention of runcible technology.
Solstan: Solar (Earth) standard, usually referring to years.
Sparkind: The word is a portmanteau of 'Spartan' and 'kind'. Sparkind are the ultimate evolution of Special Forces for the Polity, featuring enhanced humans and Golem in equal numbers. They are chosen for their ability to see the mission through, and to responsibly handle weaponry that's capable of destroying cities.
Spatterjay: a planet with an insanely hostile ecosystem. Leeches there grow to ridiculous sizes, and are almost ubiquitous. Their bite will eventually transform the victim into a Hooper.
Sub-mind: AIs in the Polity can split their consciousnesses into separate 'minds', in order to multi-task more efficiently.
Telefactored: remote controlled. A robot being telefactored is called a 'telefactor'.
Third-child, Prador: The Prador pecking order is very harsh. First-children are slated to succeed their parent, and only have their siblings and the Prador adult to worry about. Second-children can become first-children if they survive their siblings and elders. Third-children, as can be imagined, are extremely expendable.
U-space: Underspace. The Polityverse equivalent to hyperspace. Travel time is much shortened, but still noticeable.
Ursidapt: human with genetic adaptations derived from bear DNA.